LONDON (AP) – The truck must have had an unbearable situation in which 39 migrants from Vietnam were crushed. Judge Nigel Sweeney said that the sealed container must have fallen by up to 40 degrees.
The prisoners had no chance of escape. When the doors opened after hours, they were already dead: 31 men and 8 women, including teenagers. All the victims were from Vietnam.
On Friday, Judge Sweeney sentenced four members of a smuggler gang to life in prison for a long time: both the leaders were 27 and 20 years, the driver of the truck was 13 years and four months and the fourth member was jailed for 18 years .
“I have no doubt (…) that this was a subtle, long-standing and profitable conspiracy to smuggle mainly Vietnamese immigrants through the channel,” the judge said. The Vietnamese died a painful death. At the same time, Sweeney emphasized: “The willingness of victims to illegally enter the country is no excuse for what happened to them.”
The dead were discovered in a truck in south-east England on 23 October, 2019. Smugglers demanded a lot of money from them. 10,000 at first, later 13,000 pounds per person (about 15,000 euros). This was not the first trip between mainland Europe and Great Britain that the gang had organized.
The process was carefully planned. Migrants gathered in Birne, northern France, and were eventually embraced in the Belgian port of Zebruz. On October 22 at 3:36 pm, the sealed container on board the “MV Clementine” left the mainland. Nevertheless, the situation would have been unbearable for the Vietnamese. If the temperature was initially 21.5 ° C, it would have been steadily increasing, as experts have found in a simulation.
Judge Sweeney said “desperate attempts have been made to make contact with the outside world over the phone and break through the roof of the container.” The witness to the victims’ death can be experienced on audio and video files that were played in court. “I’m sorry, I have to leave you,” one person said, as reported in the British media. Another said goodbye to his family through a voice message: “Live a good life.”
The case is reminiscent of the 2015 tragedy when a refrigerated truck was discovered near the border in Hungary with the bodies of 71 unmodified people, including four children.
All the victims wanted to make more money from home, hoping for good money in Great Britain, as a brickmaker, as a waiter or in a nail salon. Some had tried their luck in Germany before – but could not find work and moved on. Their families took large debts to travel west. Many families have now lost their main breadwinner and are still left out of debt. That is why the process was closely followed in Vietnam.
Judge Sweeney’s decision also made it clear that he considered the case serious. He decided that the smuggling gang would have to undergo at least two-thirds of the sentence before being released on parole. Usually you have to serve at least half the time.
© dpa-infocom, dpa: 210122-99-135714 / 2